August 23, 1961 Berlin: West Blames Moscow

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Issue Date: August 23, 1961

West Blames Moscow

The U.S., Britain and France August 17 sent identical notes to the Kremlin blaming the USSR for the Berlin border closings and demanding that the Soviet government "put an end to these illegal measures." The USSR, in an unprecedentedly quick reply August 18, rejected the Western protest.

The Western notes, delivered by the ambassadors of the 3 protesting countries, charged that the boundary restrictions were "a flagrant, and particularly serious, violation of the quadripartite status of Berlin" as affirmed by the quadripartite agreement of May 4, 1949 and by the 4 powers' foreign ministers June 29, 1949. Each Western power said in its note that it "holds the Soviet government responsible" for the Communist measures taken in Berlin.

The Western notes said: The Western powers had "never accepted that limitations can be imposed on freedom of movement within Berlin"; the boundary between the 2 sectors of Berlin "is not a state frontier"; the Western powers did "not accept the pretension that the Soviet sector of Berlin forms a part of the so-called 'German Democratic Republic' and that Berlin is situated on its territory"; "such a pretension is...a violation of the solemnly pledged word of the USSR" in the agreement on German occupation zones and Berlin administration; the Western powers "cannot admit the right of the East German authorities to authorize their armed forces to enter the Soviet sector of Berlin"; the border closings were recommended by the Warsaw Pact powers, who "are thus intervening in a domain in which they have no competence."

The Soviet rejection, in parallel notes August 18 to the 3 Western governments, asserted that the tripartite agreements--"concluded for the period of Germany's occupation"--had been invalidated by repeated Western violations and by the creation of the "2 independent states" in Germany.

The USSR notes said: "The Soviet government fully understands and supports the action of the German Democratic Republic" in controlling the Berlin border "to block...the subversive activities being conducted from West Berlin" against East Germany "and other countries of the Socialist Commonwealth";East Germany "merely used the ordinary right of every sovereign state to defend its interests"; state frontier control was an internal question whose "settlement does not need recognition or approval by other governments"; Western attempts "to interfere" in East Germany's "internal affairs" by attacking the border measures "are absolutely groundless and irrelevant"; the Western powers were largely responsible for creating the situation that resulted in the Communist closings of the borders; West Germany, aided and encouraged by the Western powers, had turned West Berlin "into a center of subversive activities, sabotage and espionage, in to a center of political and economic provocations" against East Germany and the Soviet bloc; the East German refugees were victims of a Western "army of recruiters," who used "deception, bribery and blackmail" to get them to leave East Germany.

Colonel Andrei Solovyev, Soviet commandant in Berlin, sent the 3 Western commandants August 18 similar notes rejecting their August 15 protest against the border measures. He reiterated that the border actions came "fully under the competence" of the East German government and that the Soviet commandant in Berlin "does not interfere in the affairs of the capital of the German Democratic Republic." [See 1961 Communists Seal East Berlin; U.S. Reaction]

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